Tween angel

Editorial Notebook

April 05, 2008|By Peter Jensen

Once upon a time there was a well-mannered girl - for the purposes of this account, we'll call her "my daughter" - who was nothing short of a perfect angel. She awoke each morning singing a snappy tune - without even so much as a PG-rated lyric. Her kindergarten teacher commented on what empathy she had for others. She did as she was told and wore acceptable clothing of reasonable cost and taste.

Then one day, something happened. Something that's turned this family's existence into a living nightmare filled with constant and unspeakable cruelty.

Puberty.

Oh, it's easy for some to dismiss this particularly heinous form of torture. It is, admittedly, a fairly widespread affliction. But then so are malaria, sinkholes and attorneys. That such pestilence is commonplace makes it no less awful.

In fact, the change has been so shocking that it's entirely possible that hormones aren't too blame. The leading alternate theory is that she was simply switched with an evil twin of exceedingly ill temper (presumably a particularly villainous race of space aliens that enjoyed her morning selections of Abba hits).

No pendulum could swing as quickly as this stranger's unpredictable moods. Mention homework, chores, bedtime, the dinner menu, clothing, her appearance, the volume of her music, any of these could easily turn her into a screaming maniac. Or maybe launch her into a crying jag. Or convulsive laughter. Or maybe some combination of all three.

Her incivility was unacceptable. Punishments ensued. Unpleasantries exchanged. She went without various privileges for extended periods of time. She kept up with her homework and other obligations just fine, but her attitude continued to sour.

Naturally, her parents consulted experts. Do other children behave this badly after their 12th birthday? Have aliens exchanged them all? Turns out, yes they do and apparently, yes they have.

That raised obvious questions. How did the human race survive to this point? Why isn't there some kind of government-run isolation facility to manage these preteens (maybe give them food, shelter and iPods and release them when they've grown out of it)?

Why didn't other families warn us? One can only assume they somehow found comfort in the knowledge that others would suffer the same fate. Or maybe their brains were fried.

Whatever the cause, it's clear the nation's top scientists should be working on this. No decent family should have to suffer preteenhood.

Of course, we suspect the teen years are no vacation either, but nobody's talking.

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